Off-Broadway Review: JUST ANOTHER DAY (starring Dan Lauria and Patty McCormack at Theater 555)

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by Charles Kruger on May 12, 2024

in Theater-New York


Dan Lauria‘s gentle two-hander, which opened today at Theater 555, is a sly variation on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Two characters, named simply “man” and “woman,” find themselves at a metaphorical crossroads, alone, with nothing but a bench and a streetlamp to set the scene. For the Off-Broadway premiere, set and lighting designers Andy Evan Cohen and Joan Racho-Jansen have done a fine job of setting a gentle mood, utilizing minimal set pieces and a beautiful cyclorama of an afternoon sky in summer.

In Bettina Bierly‘s terrifically appropriate costumes, the man and woman don’t know how they got here, and they don’t know what will happen or what happened before. They are just here. Waiting for something. So to pass the time, they entertain each other, not unlike Beckett’s famous clowns, Didi and Gogo. Every once in a while, they forget themselves and begin to bicker or even fight with one another. One or the other might start crying. When this happens, a mysterious bellringer takes action. They refer to the bellringer as “her.”

It is a clever premise. It is, however, not a hauntingly surreal piece of Theatre of the Absurd. There is an explanation for these circumstances. The two lost souls are elderly residents of a nursing home who are gradually declining into dementia. They can follow their conversation moment to moment, and understand that they have lost their memories. If they stay focused on one another, they can make a connection.

It is the gentle exploration of this connection that makes the play. As part of their treatment, each has been provided with a book about their former lives, and this device occasionally prompts a memory, as does their conversation. It does appear that they have a shared past. She has been told she was a poet. He remembers that he was in show biz, a second-rate comedian. They were a team.

As they gradually put together bits of memory (which they don’t retain from one day to the next) their love affair comes to light. They tell jokes, they sing songs, they make up stories. They play eloquent linguistic games. They care for one another.

It is all very gentle, and quite lovely, but, to be honest, not very exciting. It meanders through the material like a gently babbling brook. It’s a nice place to visit but doesn’t hold a lot of interest. Director Eric Krebs sets a slow and unvarying pace.

However, in the hands of expert actors Don Lauria (best known as the father from the 70s TV hit The Wonder Years) and Patty McCormack (who achieved Broadway success for The Bad Seed – and later an Oscar nomination – before the age of 10, and has never stopped working since), it makes for a pleasant enough evening out.

The program notes indicate that the producers hope to tour this production as a fundraiser for regional theaters, in the manner of the ubiquitous productions of Love Letters. In that context, this play is likely to do very well and may even achieve beloved status.

photos of Dan Lauria and Patty McCormick by Russ Rowland

Just Another Day
Eric Krebs Theatrical Management
Theater 555, 555 West 42nd St (between 10th &11th Ave)
Thurs-Sat at 7; Sat & Sun at 2
for tickets ($49-$69, $99 premium), visit Theater 555

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